Saturday, 10 August 2013

Woodland Owl Trinkets: How I started, my motto and some tips!

It's been over a year since I started Woodland Owl Trinkets and I've learned a number of things about running a craft business. Here are some tips for those in the handmade market! Whether it be  crocheting, sewing or anything else!

{1} Make what you love. 

I started Woodland Owl Trinkets after I made nest necklaces for my mother in law and mother for mother's day last year. I kept making them because I just loved making them!  Soon, I needed an excuse to make more and Woodland Owl Trinkets was born!

{2} Never sell or promote anything that you aren't proud of!

I can't emphasize this enough. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and there have been many, many times where I've started from scratch again and again because I wasn't 100% satisfied with the result. Yes, starting from the drawing board all over again can be frustrating, and can also eat up a lot of supplies! But it is so rewarding to hold a piece in your hand that you are completely proud of selling and promoting. And, the customer will always appreciate this! Give them something that they will cherish and take pride in your work! Make "handmade" not simply "homemade," but "heartmade!"

I can say with confidence that every piece that I make is not just glued or thrown together. Each and every piece is carefully woven, moulded and sculpted with extreme attention to detail. If I'm not happy with it- I start from the very beginning, and I don't finish a piece until I am completely satisfied with it!

{3} Don't undervalue your time and effort- price your items accordingly! 

As I started Woodland Owl Trinkets, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into- until I realized how much time and effort I was putting into orders, particularly custom orders. It's a lot more involved than just making the item- I take the time to make sure that the customer knows all the available options, make suggestions based on what months they want to match, add ons, etc. Sometimes I even take pictures of potential egg color combos before I make them a listing so that they have several combinations to choose from if they are having difficulty picking colors.  I spend on average about an hour on each necklace, moulding, sculpting and weaving! I also make sure all the little details are perfect- clasps secure, initials stamped properly, the nest is nice and shiny, etc. Sometimes I don't get to sit down for an hour at a time- it might be broken up into chunks of the day. I might only get to spend 15-20 minutes on orders, and then I have to fullfill my motherly duties, and then I might get another 15-20 minutes during lunch, and then another 15-20 minutes after bedtime. I realized I was spending a lot of time not only completing orders, but also emailing and conversing back and forth for custom orders. That's when I decided to raise my prices. (When I first started, I was pricing necklaces at $15!). Handmade items are not the like items you would buy at Walmart or other chain stores- they take time, effort, thought, process and a lot of love, especially custom orders. When I asked other experienced crafters for pricing advice- some of them even told me that if you price your items too low and undervalue your work, it hurts other artists who have to compete with your prices, but are also working hard. As a stay at home mom, my small handmade business is not just a passion of mine- it's also a source of income, and I need to ensure that the time that I am spending away from my family working on nests will also contribute to my family.

Also, (I learnt this the hard way), never begin custom work without some form of payment! Thankfully, this has only happened to me once or twice before I started taking payment for custom orders. It's not a good feeling to have spent time, energy, money and supplies on an item only to have someone change their mind on something that was completely customized for them!

{4} Make it unique and stand out from the crowd 

Be different! Create an identity for your business...which leads me to my next point....

{5} Brand your shop and pay attention to detail.

This is one of my favorite parts of running a craft business- I get to make my own logo, design my own business cards, shop, and other branding materials such as labels for my little boxes, or the little cards that the necklaces sit on in the boxes. Of course, it helps if you know how to operate a graphic design program ;) Otherwise, there are graphic designers that you can pay to have your logo/branding done for you. Although this may not be everyone's favorite, I think branding is extremely important in creating an identity and look for your craft business! When I rebranded and redesigned Woodland Owl Trinkets, I completely redesigned everything so that my business cards, website, blog, information cards, boxes, etc would match one another and look professional, yet "handmade." As someone who loves to buy handmade, I am always drawn to buy from crafters who pay attention to the little details and package their items nicely. One of my favorite parts about buying handmade is opening up my package! I love little jewelry boxes, organza bags, tissue papers, ribbons and washi tape! Attention to detail is very important for branding :)

{6} Network and ask for feedback

Although this is obvious, networking and feedback from others is extremely valuable to your business. Networking increases word of mouth traffic. Feedback tells customers that you value their opinions and that their satisfaction with your items is extremely important to you, which shows them that you DO put a lot of care and attention into your orders! 

{7} Don't rely on only one social media outlet for advertisement and promotion. 

Okay, this is one that I've been struggling with. But I am aware of it :) Facebook is my main social media outlet. However, I am on instagram  and I do have this blog (that I am working on!). Most successful craft businesses have more than one social media outlet. Many have blogs that they run, and post regularly on. Their content is engaging, and they have a steady group of blog followers. This is something that I have yet to achieve, but my long term goal for this blog is for me to share a bit of myself behind Woodland Owl Trinkets, as well as post a couple of fun craft tutorials! (I love, love, love crafts!) I only have one tutorial up on this blog about cover buttons here. And also two crochet patterns here and here. I am certainly not a pro blogger at this point- and it will take me some time to get my courage going to continue blogging! Facebook is great for advertising, but keep in mind that posts on Facebook will not reach all of your fans! Another great way to advertise is through other blogs and pages through giveaways and reviews! (Again, networking!)

I'm still learning, but these are some of the key things that I have learnt this past year and a half about running a small craft business! I hope that it's been helpful for you if you run a small craft business :) Do you have any tips to add? Thanks for reading! :)

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